The Heat is On: FixWmata.com Helps You Stay Cool

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If you’ve never heard the term “hot car,” you might think it sounds awesome. Maybe that’s where the scantily clad interns hang out, or it’s painted cherry red and has a convertible top. Unfortunately, it really means a train car with a busted AC unit. And when the temperature climbs into the triple digits, there is no worse place on Earth — especially if you’re blockaded in by tourists.

That’s why this is a problem being closely monitored by FixWmata.com, which started compiling its HotCar list last July in the wake of too many sweltering situations. The blogger behind the site, who wishes to remain anonymous, figured that if he was this annoyed, other riders were, too. He was right. Soon, lots of folks were tweeting him info on offenders using the #hotcar hashtag. “I was going to track hot stations, too. But that would be a list of 86 stations,” half-jokes the blogger behind the site.

He’d been on hiatus, but we chatted last week just after he launched his 2011 list (which was already up to 23 complaints Thursday night). He’s hoping that WMATA finally starts paying attention to his data and makes necessary repairs. Last year, people reported uncomfortably warm temperatures in the same exact cars over weeks and even months.

The stats also indicate that something’s seriously wrong with the 5000 series cars, which show up way more often than any of the others. His pick? 2000 series cars. Not one has been reported. (Good luck figuring out which cars are which from the platform — although the numbers are visible on the sides of the cars, I’ve never taken note of one in the scramble to get on board.)

But as irritating as it is to lose rush hour roulette and end up on one of these cursed cars, saving yourself isn’t that difficult: Just get off at the next stop and squeeze onto one of the cooler cars, or wait for the next train.

And if you find yourself sweating it out, be thankful you didn’t end up on the “hell train.” Maybe you remember that almost exactly a year ago, a MARC train broke down near New Carrollton, trapping 1,200 commuters for more than two hours without air conditioning. Ten had to be treated by paramedics, but all of them were clearly scarred by the experience. Ever since moving to Baltimore in September, I’ve kept meeting survivors who’ve regaled me with horrific tales and advised me to start carrying a water bottle should there ever be a repeat incident.

Makes a “hot car” not sound so bad at all.

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